On 16th April 2010, a group of young artists are set to stage a fascinating, experiential event as part of the Raw Canvas Twenty For Harper Road series. Inspired by society’s bizarre and increasingly unbalanced relationship with food today, 24 Harper Road, will become home to a brand new and totally original dining experience: The Aroma Diner.
The Aroma diner is a multi-disciplinary project combining art, design, science and architecture in order to create an immersive environment of sensory pleasures. The concept involves hosting a four course meal in the project space, to be enjoyed purely through smell and smell alone. In order to discover more about this innovative project, I posed some questions to Anisha Jogani; exhibition co-curator and the brains behind the initial concept.
Where did the initial inspiration for such an original concept first arise?
I knew I wanted the exhibition to be site specific and reflective of location. The primary thing that came to mind was the way in which the area is dominated by food. With Borough Market close by the area is full of culinary junkies trekking down in the freezing cold to find some fresh, interesting and local food produce.
At the same time I read about a Californian plastic surgeon who has designed a barbaric new ‘diet’ involving a ten minute, procedure which involves stitching a piece of polythene into the patient’s tongue, making it too painful to eat solids. It suddenly struck me how warped our relationships with food have become in certain societies. I thought it would be a fascinating concept to explore through an artistic project.
What’s your take on our ‘relationship’ with food then?
It seems to me that people who actually enjoy the creative element of food and the art of cooking are in the minority. Most of the city’s population are being sucked into the subliminal-message infested advertising of Supermarket giants, the ease of ready meals, and detachment from food production and its social importance as they spiral into a growing cluelessness about the food systems that our cities and economies rest upon.
In the UK, and in most of the rest of the world, concerns about doomed food supplies are rising. Lord Cameron of Dillington remarked that Britain’s food supply is so totally dependent on oil, that if it was cut off, law and order would break down and we would head towards a serious food crisis. Yet inventions like the polythene implant and other shocking new diets leads us to a false belief that our nutrition and source of up-keeping life will magically appear for us to enjoy if and when we want. We are becoming increasingly detached from land and the food production line that keeps us alive.
So is it all doom and gloom for us then or can you see some hope on the horizon?
On the bright side, this looming food-time bomb seems to have triggered a movement of urban agricultural systems, materialised into exciting architectural manifestos from practices like MVRDV, a treasured selection of culinary design blogs, artists, designers, chefs, architects, journalists and farmers highlighting how sensory food experiences influence the space we inhabit.
That’s exactly what I’m hoping The Aroma Diner will achieve. It’s an opportunity for people to step back and consider the question; are we just ‘3 meals away from anarchy?’ or will these pioneering innovators be successful in changing culinary experiences and food systems of the future. Until then, from culinary junkies to serial dietists, we’ve created the Aroma-Diner.
So is the Aroma Diner a purely educational event?
It’s educational, but no, that’s not all it’s about. I was inspired by books, and works such as Carolyn Steel’s Hungry City, Herve This’ Molecular Gastronomy, some amazing blogs (Doors of Perception, Edible Geography, Scent lab, colour lovers amongst a few), the work of Bompass and Parr and many more. It reassured me that there were some passionate innovators experimenting & pushing the boundaries of food, science, art, design, society, and politics, and I felt there was a lot to learn from these people – hence why I approached some of them to participate in a series of talks covering these themes.
However, I was aware that I did not want to put forward the subject in a purely educational format. This is where the Aroma-Diner concept began. I imagined a light-hearted, humorous and creative way to encompass all the above food related issues. I hope the diner will be an immersive, artistic experience that will encourage thought and offer insight in an entertaining and sensory context. The symposium of conversations taking place on the 17th will follow a more educational structure.
So the Aroma-Diner and Feast of conversations was formulated and developed by myself and fellow architectural designer, Daniel Graham.
It’s a fascinating concept, but how will it actually work to create the desired effect?
The perfume will be delivered via scent infused fogs which will be ‘pumped out’ from the kitchen, into the diner. In order to make these fogs, I approached perfume manufacturer, Robertet who have developed a concoction of aromas according to the requested smells. There will be a starter, fish course, main and desert all created using natural scent infused essential oils and essences. These essences are put into a fog machine and infused with the fog as it is produced and pumped into the diner space. At the end of each course, it will be sucked out with a hoover and the next aroma filled into the space. Each diner will also receive an odour cleansing surprise to take home.
It’s a shame the exhibition’s going to be so short lived. Do you have any plans to run similar events in the future?
It is a shame this project has to be run on such a tight timeframe but that is the nature of the temporary project space. There are so many other great events to cram in over April! I do hope to develop it the concept further though and I have discovered other groups and organisations that work with a similar manifesto. I am looking to carry The Aroma Diner on as part of festivals like British Food Week, The London Food Festival and The London Festival of Architecture.
The Aroma Diner opens on Friday 16th April from 5pm – 9pm. To experience this fascinating and innovative event for yourself, go to the 3 meals away from anarchy website and book yourself a spot. A symposium of talks, workshops and conversations will follow on Saturday 17th April between 2pm & 5pm.
Twenty For Harper Road was developed by Katie Schwab and Roger White of Raw Canvas and is a series of exhibitions to be held in a temporary project space in Borough. The project calls for young artists, designers and curators to create an event of their choice in the space, resulting in an exciting and eclectic array of projects over April.